Tag Archives: stars

​CL Final Shows Gulf In Class

Posted on Goonersphere.

A Champions League Final is not normally a hive of frenetic action, sandwiched by thrilling passages of play.



No, European club football’s crowning glory is usually poster child for tedium and anti-football. Y’know the types of games I’m referring to – just picture a game involving a Jose Mourinho team in an important fixture and you’ll get the idea.



It is completely understandable though. Since the European Cup transformed itself in the early 90’s, the current format has gone from strength to strength and is now the pinnacle of all achievements for any club on the continent.



So for a team to play ultra-cautiously in fear of losing is just another effect of the Champions League gravity ensuring everything in its orbit is affected.


The latest Final though, in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, was markedly and pleasantly different.



















Both finalists – eventual winners Real Madrid and beaten finalist Juventus – went at each other with vigorous enthusiasm, and the first half especially was a joy to watch. The ebb and flow of the game was akin to a tennis match, but don’t for one moment think that the defensive arts were maligned. With each attack, the defence for both teams were the craggy rocks which the marauding waves crashed upon.


Juventus’s almost mythical defence of Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini were eventually found wanting in the face of the Real forward line, but Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos also had a tough time tracking the movement of Paolo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain.


All parameters of skill in football were crammed into the ninety or so minutes, and what became increasingly apparent as the minutes whizzed by was that Arsenal – and the Premier League – are miles behind the level on show.


The Premier League’s biggest strength – it’s physicality and fizzing speed – is also its biggest flaw. It means that the technical ability that Real and Juventus possess and dole out on the pitch can slice through the crash and bang that PL sides bring to the table.


We have players in every PL team that can play in this manner. Some clubs have more than others, but the bottom line is that it isn’t just the Champions League finalists that have climbed above our best sides.


Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, PSG, Monaco, Barcelona. These teams, if drawn against one of the big PL sides, could slice us to ribbons on demand. Of course, Dortmund have seen better days, and PSG haven’t been at their best, but five English sides making the Last 8 in the last SIX seasons pretty much underlines it.


There are matches when English teams can raise their game and occasions when their play is breathtaking. At their best, they can stand shoulder to shoulder with these Euro giants.


The problem is though, is that they are standing on tiptoes, and this can’t be maintained for long.


We have some of the best coaches. We have the most money. We have the platform to grow and become giants, like we once were. 


There are other factors. A lack of a winter break leaves English teams with less capacity than their Euro brethren, and the frenetic nature of our League means stamina becomes an issue.


These are not the main reason though, and that is why this summer will be a big one for the big boys of the Premier League. 


These clubs are now the richest on the continent, and despite this, they still don’t possess the best talent that money can buy. Suarez, Neymar, Dybala, Higuain, Bale, Ronaldo, Reus, Douglas Costa, Lewandowski. These men are at the very top, and none play in England.


Hell, Real Madrid couldn’t even fit James Rodriguez onto their bench!


We have Ozil, Sanchez, Hazard, Aguero, Pogba, Koscielny, Kane. These players can hold their head high amongst these esteemed names, but on the whole, we have a huge amount of catching up to do.


On the pitch, and off of it, we will see a big change. This summer will be the start, as silly money gets chucked around so City, United, Chelsea and hopefully Arsenal, attempt to claw back their shortcomings.


The CL Final may just serve as a wake up call for the Premier League big clubs. 

Alexis and Ozil – What Happens Next?

Published in Arsenal Mania. 

In any walk of life, retaining your prized assets ranks pretty high in terms of importance. Those things that are treasured above all else and clasped to our chests tightly in order to stave off leering suitors.


They are ours, they are our precious……


Apologies for the lame ‘Lord of the Rings’ reference, but the image of Smeagol and his ugly visage contorted with vicious desire does lend itself handily to this subject matter.  The more we want something, the more things get very ugly.


We may have plenty of treasures and things of value in our possession, but there are always a select few that take pride of place. This can be down to monetary value or even just sentimental value, but these choice items lord it above all else.


The players in our football team have all performed numerous times and in crunch fixtures. Some have gone above and beyond the normal levels and are synonymous with certain golden-hued moments in our memory. The majority all have our respect (at varying times anyway) but there are some men that stand on a different plain.


Step forward Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.























These two marked the watershed moment, transitioning from ugly duckling football club with a cash deficiency, into powerhouse club who sign established world class superstars. Money was no object, we just made it rain.


Mesut Ozil is still our record purchase. The fact that REAL MADRID and CRISTIANO RONALDO lamented his departure only made the fact we had him at Arsenal oh so sweeter. His record amount of assists last season, his touch like an Estate Agent’s promise. Ozil is refined like the escorts who don’t need to place cards in a phone box.


Alexis Sanchez is pure fire. Goals, explosive trickery, unadulterated danger. The Chilean is victory embodied in a tanned, diminutive South American. He is also directly responsible for nearly half of all the goals we have scored this season, either via scoring it himself or setting it up. His dismay when situations on the pitch go awry is tantamount to a toddler tantrum, but dependant on your standpoint, it is also evidence we actually have a winner in our team.


Now, we stand on the precipice of failure. Not only do our perennial shadow-dwelling neighbours tottenham look to have built a team that will finally break the hold we have had over them for over two decades – we also appear to have slipped sufficiently that our normally reserved place at the top table in Europe is in danger of being taken.


Of course, many snort derisively when a place in the Top4 is mentioned. We may have had this on lockdown for a while, but it should not be made a target. This is completely correct, but it is at least worthy of our radar. It needs to be our basic requirement from every season. Such is the importance the top players place on the Champions League, if we abstain involuntarily from the competition, our chances of continuing to recruit the cream of the crop will be hampered significantly.


As well as keeping hold of what we have.


We are fully aware of the ticking down of Alexis’s and Mesut’s contracts. Next season will be the last year which they are contractually obliged to play for us, but this summer is when both will be looking at potential new clubs and weighing up their options.


Alexis looks increasingly likely to depart. He will have no shortage of takers as well, and tying him up to another contract looks like an impossible task.


Mesut could well stay or go. In truth, we have no idea what will happen as we are not lucky enough to be able to peer behind the veil, but there is a large chance we could be without both when we line up for the 2017/18 season.


We would increase our odds if we could promise them Champions League football, but even if we miraculously won that golden ticket for another year, would our top talent agree to stay?


If both decide to opt for pastures new, then we would be bereft of some incredible talent. Skills that would be at home in the best sides in the world. We would of course be stronger with them in our side.


We will still carry on though. We will still have a football club that we will still adore.


We have been a selling club before. The difference between this and now is that we needed to sell our shiniest baubles to stay afloat. Now we are selling merely because the players in question want to leave. We do not need to sell, but what is worse;


Needing to sell or being unable to keep top players?


Ozil and Alexis are not bigger than the club. We have had players who produce far more than they do on their best day, and we will again.


What we need are players willing to work hard for the club. We want players who want to be at the club.


If they want to leave – especially when we need them the most – then we shouldn’t shed a tear over them. It just means they were never true Gunners, they were mere mercenaries.   

Keep Alexis and Ozil – At All Costs?

Originally published on Goonersphere.

At what point does something become untenable?

If stories are to be believed, then our headline acts Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are demanding a kings ransom to continue their excellence in an Arsenal shirt.

Newspapers have always erred toward the dramatic, and it is hard to fathom that our humble Chilean especially is asking for upwards of £250k per week. When do wages hit a ceiling? When does the club step in and put a halt to proceedings?

And if they do, is the fallout worth the hard stance?

If it all is true and Ozil and Sanchez have had their heads turned by their apparent market worth, then if they are also holding firm in talks with the club and threatening their exits from Arsenal – are they nothing more than mercenaries?

Their services go to the highest bidder – apparently Chelsea if the daily rags are to be held up as a beacon of virtue – and the loyalty and affection built up with their previous club and fanbase is destroyed. Badge kissing and pointing were nothing more than a macabre parody of a loyal gladiator doing his duty for his adoring public. 

Do we think that our two mercurial men are truly that despicable? Ozil in particular has a huge following and every delicate flick is entrenched in the memory of his cadre of support. Could Mesut be merely holding up a facade when he performs his signature celebration? Are his rare roars of passion a mask? 

 The guy just bought a £10m pad in London – does that smack of a man who wants to go anywhere anytime soon?

Alexis Sanchez also, with his bouts of heroism, has constructed a bond with Gooners. His exploits with his dogs Atom and Humber, his charitable work for his native country, his infectious energy. They have all served to strengthen his ties to the millions who watch him affectionately each week.

The ball lies at the feet of the club hierarchy. Do they go for broke and realise that in order to progress they must pay these men what they would warrant with other clubs? Are the numbers that are being bandied around actually true?

Like it or loath it, there is a boundary which every set of negotiations have to avoid. If the limit is reached, then there is nowhere else to go. It means that the player has had his head turned by his agent, and that the club just cannot go on with talks. If the wages that are in the stories are to be believed, then that ship may have sailed.

Reputedly, our stars want parity with top earner in the Premiership – Paul Pogba. His wages come in at a hefty £290k a week. At this moment in time, Ozil commands £140k per week and Sanchez brings in £130k per week. There can be no doubt that these players deserve more than they currently earn. In today’s fiscal football scene, these wages are not becoming of what talent these men can unleash.

Arsenal are still deep in talks with both players, and Arsene Wenger has maintained that while these players have eighteen months on remaining on their contracts, the club will continue to attempt to bridge the gap and tie them up for the long term.

The underlining factor is that we want Ozil and Alexis at our club. There will be no shortage of teams who would snap them up if they were to be made available. Money would not be an issue, they would enjoy a fat contract and the club would enjoy a world class player enhancing their squad. 

The sources may be wide of the mark or not, but what is true is that these talks may just hold Arsenal’s future in their grasp. If we decide to let them go as we cannot meet their demands, then we will take a step back. We will not be able to match our supposed rivals as we would be letting our two genuine stars go.

If we keep them, then we must compromise and pay them what they are worth, but not be held to ransom.

How much is too much? According to The Telegraph, nothing is too much.